Coal Tattoo

Strip mining and birth defects, by the numbers

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There’s was a great piece from Sue Sturgis at Facing South that I missed last week when I was doing our Coal Tattoo Friday Roundup … so I wanted to mention it here.

In INSTITUTE INDEX: Appalachia’s deepening human rights crisis, Sue outlines some of the numbers about the new study exposing the link between mountaintop removal coal mining and higher rates of birth defects in the Appalachian coalfields:

Of every 100,000 babies born, number who suffer from birth defects in areas of Appalachia where coal is mined by mountaintop removal, in which ammonium nitrate fuel oil explosives are used to expose coal seams: 235

In non-mining areas: 144

Percent higher risk of having a baby with a birth defect for mothers who smoked during pregnancy compared to non-smoking mothers: 17

Percent higher risk of having a baby with a birth defect for mothers living in mountaintop removal areas compared to mothers living in non-mining areas: 42

Percent that a mother’s smoking increases the risk that her baby will be born with defects of the circulatory or respiratory system: 17

Percent that a mother’s living in a mountaintop removal mining area increases the risk of such defects: 181

The piece also mentions:

Date on which mountaintop removal mining opponents held an emergency press conference in Washington to draw attention to a bill that would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of the power to regulate the practice: 7/13/2011

Amount in campaign contributions from mining interests to Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), the sponsor of that bill: $142,600

I’m still waiting for a chance to interview my good friend Congressman Rahall about the birth defects study and what he thinks should be done about the increased risks faced by folks in his district.

Congressman Nick Rahall, right, and Barbara Mollohan check the returns in the war room at his home, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010, in Beckley, W.Va. (AP Photo/Jon C. Hancock)